Healing Acute Ear Infections Naturally (Otitis Media)

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Anyone who has suffered from an earache can tell you that they are awful. Both for the parent and the child. Up all night wailing and holding their little ears…this kind of pain isn’t for the weak. Fortunately, acute ear infections usually come on fast and furiously and hopefully with correct treatment, retreat just as quickly.

The Science: What exactly is Otitis Media? Otitis media refers to inflammation of the middle ear. This happens when a cold, allergy, or upper respiratory infection, and the presence of bacteria or a virus  lead to the accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, blocking the Eustachian tube.

Incidence: Acute and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S.

Otitis media with effusion: OME is the chronic build up of fluid behind the ears that creates pressure and can affect hearing. This often causes the eardrum to bulge outwards and sounds may become more muffled. This is the most common reason children undergo surgery to receive ear grommets or tubes to release the fluid build up. I am not sure about you but I thought Grommets were little surfer dudes?

Earaches & Traditional Chinese Medicine:

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TCM looks at earaches a bit differently. While Western medicine mainly observes external causes, Traditional medicine investigates both internal and external causes of disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are three main reasons why a child would have an earache:

1) An external attack of wind, heat or cold entering the ear. Translation: virus or bacteria.

2) Internal causes of earaches are usually heat or cold accompanied by dampness. Translation: diet, stress, lifestyle and anatomical differences can all affect how one responds to a pathogen.

3 ) Lingering Pathogenic Factor. Translation: repeated bouts of antibiotics, a lingering virus that has never completely cleared like Lyme, or from a vaccine.

One major culprit for earaches is systemic inflammation.

Inflammation can cause a swelling of the tonsils, sinuses, adenoids, lymph nodes and parotid gland. This creates an obstruction and fluid builds up which often leads to infection. Inflammation also slows down the healing process.

How does inflammation occur?

External causes:

  • Dietary factors such as dairy, wheat, gluten, artificial colors and sweeteners.
  • Allergies to animals, dander, mold, pollen, grass, pesticides, hormones
  • Cigarette smoke

Internal causes:

  • Emotional volatility and stress can lead to stagnation which impedes blood flow and circulation.
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Obesity

Chronic ear infections may present with:

  • Hearing loss
  • Milder pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Supplementing your child’s treatment at home:

Dietary therapy: It is important to immediately look at the child’s diet. There may be an allergy to dairy or wheat that is contributing to phlegm accumulation.

Try a challenge by removing an offender ( I would start with cows milk ) for two weeks and see if you see a reduction in symptoms. Reintroduce the milk two weeks later in a small dosage and see if the symptoms return or get worse.

If there are no changes then try eliminating wheat and then sugar.

Adding supplements and foods:

  • Quercitin: I found a great Vitamin C and Quercitin powder by Designs for Heath that works seamlessly into a smoothie. Note this is very tart.
  • Bee pollen (high in quercitin and flavinoids)
  • Bee Propolis: cant say it tastes great but worth a try.
  • Boswellia (AKA Frankincense) & Myrrh
  • Omega fish oil: I like Nordic Naturals. They are very tasty. Just make sure to floss afterwards as gummies are notorious cavity makers.
  • Turmeric

Probiotics to boost the immune system and help fight against dampness and phlegm. Klaire labs makes a great powdered probiotic. I find it very easy to slip the powdered probiotics seamlessly into smoothies and yogurt. My kids hated the chewable kind but my husband liked them so that was easy.

Herbal Therapy: Jia Jian Xiao Chai Hu Tang. Please check in with your acupuncturist about this classic formula.

Rub Castor oil along the lymph nodes around the throat and neck. I like to apply this at night with a little massage on the nape of the neck. Because castor oil is so goupy I make sure to put on old towel on the pillow and tie up my kid’s hair.

Acupressure: the goal is to clear heat and relieve pressure.

Try these acupressure points. I would apply a light tapping pressure with a small spoon.

Treat acute pain:
Acupressure on SJ 5
Gallbladder 41
Large intestine 11
Large intestine 4

  • Cranio Sacral Therapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Shonishin treatment is a great way to reduce the pain and swelling around the ear. Make an appointment with your acupuncturist.

Sometimes that pain is so intense that any sensation around the ear feels like torture. For these I avoid the local area and focus on these points on the arms and feet.

Resources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ear-infections/DS00303

Immune Support

Fatigue…Lowered Immunity, Swollen Glands…? How to Identify and Treat a Lingering Pathogenic Factor.

Virus

Many people seek Traditional Chinese Medicine for immune support because they have a tendency to catch colds easily and take longer than average to kick it. They also often say that “they need their sleep” preferring 9-10 hours of sleep per night and often more on the weekends.

Another recurring symptom is inflammation manifesting as either chronic sinusitis, enlarged tonsils, swollen lymph nodes and/ or recurring respiratory conditions like strep throat and bronchitis.

The ancients discussed a pattern called “Lurking Pathogen” in the Nei Jing. The name, lurking pathogen, principally comes from the Inner Classic (Nei Jing), where it says “if there is damage by cold in the winter, there will be a warm pathogen disease in the spring”, and “if there is sufficient essence, there will be no warm disease in the spring.”

Western medicine recognizes a similar situation known as “Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome”, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” or “Myalgic encephalomyelitis”.

A typical history includes the revelation of past experience with a viral or bacterial illness such as Mononucleosis, Lyme’s Disease, Meningitis, Coxsackie virus. The list does not end there these are just the most frequent in my clinical experience.

Most people are able to clear the pathogen on their own but for others it isn’t fully expressed and pops up later in life. It’s as if an imprint of the virus lurks in the body and when people are under stress or run down, it pops up and resurfaces. It’s also taxing on the body to have low-lying inflammation and phlegm. These require constant energy to keep it at bay.

Phlegm is a major component of a Lingering Pathogenic Factor. Additionally, the tongue presentation is red, which runs contrary to the pattern of fatigue and weakness. In Traditional Chinese Medicine we consider this to be the result of a “Lingering Pathogenic Factor”.

Typical response to a pathogen:

Typically the body is hit with a pathogen and responds with fever, shivering, sweating and phlegm. As the pathogen meets the exterior of the body the “Wei Qi” or “Defensive Qi” puts up a fight. The battle between “Evil Qi” and “Right Qi” is observed between fever and chills. The body’s temperature elevates to make the host un-hospitable to the infection. Many people feel the higher the fever the more intensely your body is fighting the pathogen.

Because the pathogen invades the skin at the surface of the body, Qi and Fluids are impeded and phlegm is produced. Most people fully clear the pathogen in time. In many it can take a week or so, others a month and some just never fully express the pathogen. Children are extremely susceptible to Lingering Pathogenic factor because their immune systems are developing and they are more fragile.

There are also other reasons that can contribute to a lingering pathogen not being completely expressed and expelled.

Compounding factors:

  • Genetic disposition
  • Overuse or improper use of antibiotics
  • Cold, phlegm producing foods
  • Antipyretics
  • Concurring illnesses
  • Emotional strains
  • Developmental milestones
  • Vaccinations

Treatment:

Allopathic medicine treats the disease. Traditional Chinese medicine treats the individual. By strengthening the individual and not suppressing the body’s own, innate knowledge, the body has the ability to clear the pathogen without the side effects of antibiotics.

Understanding the Pattern: The body is a relative balance of:
Yin / Yang

Cold/Heat

Interior/ Exterior

Deficiency/ Excess

Fatigue, lowered immunity and phlegm are usually an example of excess yin, with cold in the interior creating phlegm. A red tongue indicates the presence of heat within the body, often a remnant of the virus or toxin.

Symptoms of Fatigue (Qi deficiency) include:

  • Extreme fatigue in the morning
  • Recurring illness, lowered immunity
  • Pale, heavy menstruation
  • Bruising easily
  • Depressed / Moody
  • Runny nose or Blocked nose
  • Phlegm

Treatment:

Treatment includes clearing a heat toxin. First you need to identify where the phlegm (LPF) is remaining. It can be in the tonsils, ears, lungs, intestines or bladder. We typically see LPF after chronic urinary tract infections.

Often systemic treatment is geared towards initially strengthening the body followed by clearing phlegm.

1)   Dietary Suggestions:

Eliminate Reduce Phlegm Inducing Foods:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy (yogurt is often okay)
  • Fructose (Juice, bananas, oranges, smoothies)
  • Refined Sugars
  • Peanut butters can encourage phlegm too

Consider adding:

  • Organic meats
  • Organic vegetables and fruits that reduce phlegm like onions, garlic, lemons,
  • Nourish the lungs with white vegetables and fruit: Cauliflower, lotus root, daikon, pears

Supplements:

  • Probiotics to help repair the gut lining and reduce phlegm
  • Quercitin and Bromelain to help reduce inflammation and phlegm.
  • Tumeric: Natural antinflammatory
  • Raw Honey: anti-viral, ant-bacterial
  • Bee Propolis: Anti-inflammitiry, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Coconut oil: anti inflammatory, anti-viral, antibacterial, good for a mouth wash. Can dissolve a spoonful in water in the morning or swish it around your mouth for 1 minute and spit out.
  • Gargle with salt water
  • Olive leaf spray for swollen tonsils
  • Vitamin D for immune support

Lifestyle:

  • Nurture your down time. Make sure to get proper rest.
  • Avoid overuse of digital devices.
  • Do moderate exercise. If you feel exhausted after your workout try more restorative exercises like walking in the park, Hatha yoga

Acupuncture & Herbs:

Acupuncture is a great way to support the immune system to clear the trapped pathogen.

The treatment is two-fold:

1) Strengthening the immune system

2) Clearing the pathogen

Similarly an herbal regimen is helpful to help support the immune system whilst clearing heat. An herbalist will constantly update a hand tailored formula that will evolve as the pathogen is clearing and the body is being restored to balance.

Seed Cycling

Seed Cycling is a natural way to support female reproductive hormones. This is great if you are not cycling (amenorrhea) or if you are having irregular cycles & PMS.

If you are not cycling at all – or having extremely irregular cycles – use the Lunar phases as a guide for regulating your own flow.

The New moon will be Day 1 of your cycle. This will be your Follicular Phase, which is dominated by the hormone estrogen. Take 1 tbsp. daily of crushed Flax seeds and Pumpkin seeds (also known as Pepita seeds).

At the Full Moon switch to the Luteal Phase. The Luteal phase is dominated by the hormone progesterone, which is secreted from the corpus luteam of the egg after ovulation. To support progesterone take 1Tbsp. daily of crushed sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Do this until the New Moon.

This make take a few months but stick with it!

Castor Oil: The good, the not so pretty and the downright deadly uses of the castor plant.

Castor Nut

Castor Oil is an incredible substance that is obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor plant, Ricinus communis (Euphorbiaceae). It is a clear oil that has been used for medicinal use in Ancient Egypt, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome, and in 17th Century Europe and the Americas. Centuries ago, the plant was referred to as “Palma Christe” because the leaves were said to resemble the hand of Christ. This association likely arose out of people’s reverence for the plant’s healing abilities.

Castor oil is now widely used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, machinery and industry. Even Castrol motor oil for machinery is derived from castor oil….must be good for the joints?

 The Good:  Always start with the positives!

One of the more compelling health benefits is castor oil’s ability to support the immune system. This healing property does not require you ingest the oil, rather apply it externally. Castor oil “packs” can be an economical and efficient method of infusing the ricinoleic acid and other healing components of castor oil directly into your tissues.

Popularized by psychic and intuitive healer, Edgar Cayce in the 1930s and 1940s, Castor Oil packs became widely utilized. Some say Edgar Cayce was the father of the New Age Movement. His work with castor oil was later researched and proven by primary care physician William McGarey amongst others.

Even Ancient Yogis and modern day yogis of the Ashtanga tradition follow a Saturday ritual of a castor oil bath. This helps reduce any inflammation in the joints while providing a ritual during the day off from training. In this tradition castor oil is applied liberally while the practitioner lays in corpse pose (shivasina) for 10-15 minutes. Afterwards wash the castor oil off in the shower.

Castor oil packs applied topically can:

  • Stimulate and support the immune system
  • Drain the lymphatic system
  • Increase lymphocyte production
  • Increase circulation
  • Have an antiinflamitory effect
  • Have an antiviral effect
  • Have an antifungal  effect
  • Improve painful conditions and swelling

Some conditions treated are GI complaints, ovarian cysts, menstrual issues, irregular menses, painful menses, fibroids, acne, arthritis, lymph edema and chronic infections.

Topical Application: You can rub castor oil into the skin but if you truly want the most therapeutic effect try a “Castor Oil Pack”.  Packs are the most common and effective way to apply topical castor oil.

In order to make a Castor Oil Pack You will need the following supplies:

  • High quality cold-pressed castor oil
  • Hot water bottle or heating pad
  • Plastic wrap
  • Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel
  • One large old bath towel

Fold flannel three layers thick so it is still large enough to fit over your entire upper abdomen and liver. You can also treat over a local area, like swollen lymph nodes on the neck, ankles, knees…anywhere that needs additional love. Soak flannel with the oil so that it is completely saturated. The oil should be at room temperature. Place the flannel pack directly onto your abdomen; cover oiled flannel with the sheet of plastic, and place the hot water bottle on top of the plastic.

I recommend wearing old pajamas as the oil stains and is difficult to remove. Leave pack on for 45 to 60 minutes. This is a great time to do meditational breathing, reading or just relax.  You can reuse the pack several times, each time adding more oil as needed to keep the pack saturated.

The “not so pretty” but effective Internal Uses of Castor Oil:

Castor oil has been an internal remedy for thousands of years. Remember Spanky from The Little Rascals being spoon fed castor oil?  Castor oil can even be seen on Tom and Jerry as a way to harass Tom. Centuries of ingesting Castor oil by myriads of cultures have shown us that castor oil is a formidable laxative.

Castor oil has been proven to stimulate the intestines and the uterus and is often recommended to stimulate labor. I however do not recommend  castor oil for labor induction unless in very specific conditions as castor oil as it can cause violent vomiting and diarrhea which can really be tough on a laboring woman.

The”Downright Deadly” but infrequently seen use of the Castor nut:

Unless you go into the business of manufacturing castor oil you will not come into contact with Ricin. Ricin is a highly toxic, naturally occurring protein and even a dose the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. Heating during the oil extraction process denatures and inactivates the protein rendering castor oil harmless.

In a few occurrences since the late 1970’s ricin has been utilized as a biological toxic weapon.  As a matter of fact even this year,  an envelope addressed to President Obama tested positive for ricin.  All that being said, castor oil has been deemed safe and effective by the FDA so do not worry.

 Castor Oil is an ancient and effective way to improve your health. Give it a try for yourself.

The Power of Propolis

Bee-Propolis

My family of Beekeepers recently paid a visit and I was so excited to chat with them extensively about the power of Bees and their extraordinary products. My cousin Gustav is a third generation of beekeeper and I have fond memories meeting his Grandfather (my great, great Uncle Einer) in Sweden when I was eight. I have an image in my head of my Great Uncle in his bee suit and huge drums of creamy honey in the basement. Maybe that started my deep love for honey?

Gustav had a lot of information to share. Sadly a lot of the discussion was about the disappearance of bees. He has been working extremely hard over the past ten years developing ways to keep his beehives healthy.

There were so many fascinating medicinal facts and bee products that I was inspired to write a 4-Part Piece on Bee products including Honey, Propolis, Bee Pollen and Royal Jelly. I’ll start with Propolis.

The Power of Propolis

Gustav called Propolis “the anti” because of  its antiinflamitory, antibacterial, antiviral, antitumor and antiseptic properties. Honey bees are “propolis harvesters”. Bees collect resins from treebuds and mix the resins with a little honey, wax and enzymes to create propolis. Propolis essentially contains resins, balsams, essential oils, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals and pollen. Analysis shows that bees don’t significantly change the resins they collect which makes propolis an herbal medicine similar to other medicinal gums and resins such as boswellia and myrrh.

Propolis is a Greek word that translates to “before the city” and is used by bees in the hives to line the hive to keep the hive clean. Propolis also acts as an adhesive as it assists in gluing the hive together and protect the hive from inclement weather. Bees not only line their hive with Propolis but leave Propolis as a “doormat” at the entrance. Gustav mentioned that bees step their feet in the Propolis before entering the hive to “clean” their feet before entering. Additionally Bees embalm invaders. Ancient Egyptians followed the bees knowledge and used propolis to embalming agents for their mummies. If a pest were to enter the hive and die the bees cover the dead animal in Propolis to keep the hive and the Queen Bee protected from germs.

Even The Gracie Diet, a diet created by Grandmaster Carlos Gracie, the forefather of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who lived and trained into his 90’s, listed Propolis as one of the 10 foods that should be eaten daily. Following the Hippocratean maxim “Let your food be your remedy”, Grandmaster Carlos Gracie aimed at founding a system that would primarily prevent illness on days of competition.The basic principle of the Gracie Diet is to keep blood pH level neutral by consuming only compatible nutrients at each meal.

A study on PubMed reported that “More than 15 Greek and Roman authors report on the preparation and application of the so-called third natural product of the bees (besides honey and wax). Aristoteles described the fundamental issues of its biology in his ‘Historia Animalium’ correctly.” Propolis has been utilized since ancient times as a topical antiseptic used for open wounds. It is said that Propolis is the most natural antibiotic man has ever discovered. The remarkable thing about this statement is the fact that this discovery took place some 2000 years ago.”

Integrate Propolis into your daily regimen:

In cell culture tests Propolis extracts have been shown to significantly inhibit the growth in the Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Staphyloccocus, clostridium, corynebacterium diptheriae and some streptococcus species.

Propolis Salve:
Treating open wounds it is superior to use a blend of propolis as a topical salve rather than a single antibiotic in petroleum jelly. Antibiotics are overused and their overuse are creating a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. The complex bend of compounds in propolis is superior to the single antibiotic in petroleum jelly. Gladiators know how to treat wounds!

Propolis as mouth wash:
Propolis mouth wash inhibits the growth of common human oral bacteria which helps the body heal after surgery, prevent bad breath, gingivitis, tooth decay and gum disease.

Upper respiratory conditions:

Propolis can be added to saline for a sinus irrigation. In many Eastern European countries widespread use of antibiotics is less common than beekeeping. Washing, gargling and irrigating the sinuses with propolis rinses are more commonly used.

Promote heart health. Propolis has been demonstrated to be an antiinflammatory.

Emollient: Studies also indicate that Propolis may be effective in treating skin burns.

Immune Support: Propolis exhibits immunostimulant effects in numerous clinical trials.

Propolis is available in powder, lozenges, tincture, capsules and pills.

As my family was heading back home they were eager to hug and kiss everyone of us before boarding the plane. Gustav waved a hearty goodbye as he popped some Propolis in his mouth.

Stay tuned for Bee Pollen!!